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Montana DEQ warns public to look out for harmful algal blooms

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jul 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-27 21:06:26-04

HELENA – Many people flock to Montana’s lakes to cool down during the hot summer months.

As a result, the Montana Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ) and the Montana Department of Human Health Services (DPHHS) are cautioning that as temperatures make a staggering climb, so do the chances of harmful algal blooms (HABs) developing.

HABs are caused by a blue-green-like algae that is indigenous to Montana’s fresh lake water and reservoirs. This toxic species predominately grows in shallow, warm-water areas where there is more sunlight for growth.

Due to increased water temperatures, nitrogen in the water — as well as a high level of phosphorus runoff (caused by varies human activities) — harmful to algal blooms can produce toxins that damage skin, liver and nerve cells.

Hannah Riedl, water quality specialist for DEQ, told MTN, “Most commonly, I get reports of people experiencing a rash or itchiness on their skin; they can have diarrhea or nausea or headaches.”

“We have received several reports of people’s dogs dying or cattle dying … especially with dogs and children …  they’ll just jump straight into the water and very easily ingest it,” she added.

Since mid-July 2019, the HABs report to the public has reported several blooms in the Hauser Reservoir.

Jordan Tollefson, NorthWestern Energy water quality specialist, told MTN, “Usually you’ll see what almost looks like grass clippings — that’s a species of blue-green algae that we typically see around this area.”

Tollefson continued, “if you do see blue-green algae … try to not let your children or pets swim in there.”

-Reported by Christine Sullivan/MTN News